Choose Plastic Free Chewing Gum

Best Plastic Free Chewing Gum - Choose Your Gum Wisely

Every item we buy, including the tiny ones, has more impact than we realize. Unfortunately, many of these small purchasing decisions could come with negative consequences. Chewing gum is one decision that could hurt people and the planet. Thankfully today, you can choose plastic-free chewing gum.

You may not realize it, but most modern chewing gum contains plastic, and manufacturers derive them from finite and polluting petroleum products. When you choose plastic-free gum or bubble gum, you take a small step towards a more ethical and sustainable future.

Why Choose Plastic-Free Chewing Gum?

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Person blowing a chewing gum bubble
Photo by Karina Miranda on Unsplash

There are several reasons why consuming and the impact of plastic chewing gum is a problem. Here are just some of the reasons to make sure you are not part of this problem and, if you choose to chew gum, that you make the switch to plastic-free options.

  • Making plastic involves mining the fossil fuels that we should keep in the ground.
  • It also involves the use of yet more fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases during manufacture.
  • Plastic gum is not biodegradable. It creates a waste problem that, quite literally, sticks around. While we can recycle gum to make plastic products, recycling options are few and far between. And the new plastic items we make cannot be recycled, so there is still a waste problem to contend with.
  • Discarded plastic chewing gum despoils city streets and urban landscapes. Cleaning it up is a massive logistical problem for authorities and costs a considerable amount of public money each year.
  • Plastic gum can be a choking hazard and may cause intestinal blockage (especially in children).
  • Many have raised concerns that vinyl acetate (one potential ingredient in plastic chewing gum) could be a carcinogen and threaten human health (though most recent studies, including in Canada, determined vinyl acetate does not threaten human health1).

Nonetheless, there are concerns over a range of other gum ingredients, several of which many believe to cause harm to humans (and animals).

Why Choose Plastic-Free Chewing Gums?

All too often, it is worryingly tricky to determine what is actually in your favorite gum brands. Most chewing gums list 'gum base' as one of their ingredients. This, you might say, potentially hides a multitude of sins from people buying regular chewing gum.

Fortunately, there are a few all-natural, plastic-free, biodegradable gums out there to consider. Choosing these options rather than opting for damaging brands is one more way to live in a more ethical, sustainable, and eco-friendly way.

Of course, plastic-free, natural, and biodegradable chewing gum have a range of benefits. It not only avoids the problems with plastic outlined above. Choosing it can also help you avoid various unhealthy or environmentally damaging ingredients.

Even better, in pursuit of a better gum for the environment, you'll find all-natural chewing gum options using ethically sourced organic ingredients. These include ditching artificial flavors and artificial sweeteners as well as plastic.

As more people learn about the plastic in their gum and look for better and more sustainable alternatives, the number of all-natural, plastic-free, biodegradable chewing gum options is rising. If you enjoy chewing gum, consider switching your regular gum to a plastic-free option for environmental benefits and giving these sustainable brands a better market share.

4 best plastic-free and natural chewing gum brands to consider

1. Simply Gum Variety Pack:

This all-natural chewing gum is handmade in New York City. It contains only organic vegetable glycerin, organic rice flour, and natural flavoring and is naturally sweetened with organic raw cane sugar.

You'll also find some great flavors to try out, including coffee, maple, and fennel alongside the ever-present peppermint.

Check the price on amazon

2. Chikza Gum:

In Mexico, they harvest this chewing gum from the Mayan rainforest's Chicozapote trees containing just five simple ingredients - organic agave syrup, chicle, glucose, evaporated cane juice, and organic flavor. The sap used to produce Chikza gum is sustainably harvested from the Chicozapote tree by local communities in the Mayan rainforest.

Check the price on amazon

3. Glee Gum:

Due to consumer pressure, Glee gum switched from a plastic chewing gum formulation to one made from tree sap called chicle, calcium carbonate, candelilla wax, and citrus peels. These natural gums also come in biodegradable packaging.

Check the price on amazon

4. Chewsy Gum:

All Chewsy gums are naturally plant-based, vegan, and biodegradable. They are made with a plastic-free organic gum base. You can explore a range of flavors, including natural cinnamon, lemon, and of course, peppermint.

Check the price on amazon

History of Chewing Gum

Chewing gum has been a habit for humans since Neolithic times. Researchers discovered a birch bark tar gum with tooth marks in Finland, which shows that this habit is over 6,000 years old. Many ancient civilizations independently developed gums from natural substances, such as mastic tree bark, chicle, sugar pine, spruce sap, etc.

However, it was only in the 19th Century that gum became a commercialized product. In the United States, New England settlers picked up the habit from native peoples. John B. Curtis then developed and sold the first commercial chewing gum in Maine in 1848. This was a natural spruce-based gum.

In around 1850, however, everything changed. An inventor made a new gum that used not a plant material but paraffin wax – a petroleum product from fossil fuels. Around this time, what we might recognize as modern chewing gum was born. Around ten years later, John Colgan, in Kentucky, created the first flavored gum, known as 'Taffy Tolu'.

Modern conventional gum in pretty much every corner shop

The military included chewing gum in the rations of American GIs, and their deployments during the Second World War spread the gum-chewing habit and saw it take off in Europe and worldwide. Over the next few decades, modern gums took off. Several early commercial chewing gums created in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century are still around today.

Most modern gums have switched from natural, plant-based ingredients to synthetic artificial ingredients from finite and polluting fossil fuels. These synthetic ingredients might include Butadiene-styrene rubber, Isobutylene-isoprene copolymer (butyl rubber), Paraffin (via the Fischer-Tropsch process), Petroleum wax, Petroleum wax synthetic, Polyethylene, Polyisobutylene, or Polyvinyl acetate.

The Size of the Chewing Gum Market

Industry experts forecast that the global chewing gum market could reach USD 22.27 billion by 20242. Between 2019 and 2024, they expect it to rise by 4.3%. While the consumption of sugared chewing gum is decreasing, sugar-free options are increasingly popular.

The global market is most substantial in North America, followed by Europe. And the Asia Pacific region is seeing demand increase at the fastest rate.

If chewing gum does not interest you, then you may not consider this a major problem. But as the figures above show, chewing gum is here to stay.

The staggering amount of gum chewed (and disposed of irresponsibly) around the world is a significant concern. Healthier gums are increasing in popularity. And this is an issue that those interested in sustainability should consider.

Conclusion

As consumers, we have to remember that we have the power to create positive change. By refusing to buy plastic chewing gum, we can help to put pressure on bigger brands to make the switch away from polluting, harmful and unsustainable ingredients.

Chewing gum is not essential. But if you want to chew it, make the right choices and say no to options that harm your health and the environment. So next time you reach for some gum, ensure you know what is hiding in it.

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Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Photo by Andreas Haslinger on Unsplash
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